Maya Lin’s Confluence Project at Cape Disappointment State Park

June 9, 2016

Fish-Cleaning Table, Confluence Project, Cape Disappointment State Park

Fish-Cleaning Table, Confluence Project, Cape Disappointment State Park

The Confluence Project is a multi-site land art installation long the Columbia River.  Maya Lin — who is perhaps best known for the Vietnam War Memorial in Washington, D.C. — helped to design the components of the project in conjunction with the 200 year anniversary of the Lewis and Clark expedition.  I had already visited one of the Confluence Project sites, the Vancouver Land Bridge, in 2010 shortly after I had first heard about the project.  (You can link to my blog post about the Vancouver Land Bridge here.)  So I was excited to see the Confluence Project site at Cape Disappointment.

There are five parts to the Cape Disappointment Confluence Project Artwork:


The fish-cleaning table is a working, functional basalt sculpture inscribed with a Chinook origin legend about the interdependence of the Chinook people and the Columbia River salmon.

Basalt fish-cleaning table

Basalt fish-cleaning table

Close by and down a path surrounded by native plants is a viewing platform overlooking Baker Bay.  On the surface of the platform is etched a journal entry from a member of the Corps of Discovery.

Viewing platform

Viewing platform

The Amphitheater Trail, another part of the Confluence Project, leads through dune grasses to a little grove.  The trail is inscribed with the words of a Chinook praise song, with the repeated refrain, “Teach us, and show us the way.”  You read each stanza as you walk the short path.




At the end of the path is a Cedar Circle, a group of four cedar driftwood columns standing like sentinels around a section of an ancient cedar tree.


The fifth and final component of Cape Disappointment’s Confluence Project is a boardwalk which represents the 4133-mile length of the Lewis and Clark expedition.  As you walk the boardwalk and reprise the journey of the Corps of Discovery, you read brief observations from the expedition’s journals, including data measurements.  The final step takes you on to the beach, the end of their mission.




The artwork at this site is more in the nature of landscape architecture than sculptures.  But I liked that so much of the work incorporated texts from native and explorer sources.  Etching words on surfaces seems to be a trademark of Maya Lin’s art (think of the names on the Vietnam War Memorial).  And as always, she seem sensitive to having her work blend into the landscape.

Someday I will have to travel to the other Confluence Project sites and complete my investigation of this art.



One Response to “Maya Lin’s Confluence Project at Cape Disappointment State Park”

  1. shoreacres Says:

    I like this approach very much. There’s a place for statues and more obvious public art, but this is delightful. It’s not only attractive, it aids understanding.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: